Were expectations met?
Of course. Ahead of the finals, Germany were not expected to win. Given their perceived defensive problems and key absences, expectations before the Brazil trip were lower than usual. Marco Reus was injured, along with Germany's usual left-back Marcel Schmelzer, while defensive midfield options were limited by the absences of İlkay Gündoğan and the Bender twins. It was also decided that striker Mario Gomez – not fully fit – would be left at home.
While many knew this might be a last shot at FIFA World Cup glory for the likes of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, few dared to dream of that fourth star until the quarter-final win against France.
Group G: Germany 4-0 Portugal
Group G: Germany 2-2 Ghana
Group G: Germany 1-0 United States
Round of 16: Germany 2-1 Algeria (aet)
Quarter-finals: Germany 1-0 France
Semi-finals: Germany 7-1 Brazil
Final: Germany 1-0 Argentina (aet)
What the media say
Bild: WORLD CHAMPIONS! WORLD CHAMPIONS! WORLD CHAMPIONS! WORLD CHAMPIONS! The biggest and most important trophy in world football, finally we have it again. We bow in front of coach Jogi Löw. This title is his world masterpiece. In focused fashion, he led Germany through the tournament. He stayed composed after big wins. He kept his calm after difficult matches. In the midst of the tournament, he renounced his concept with Lahm in midfield. Our boys are World Cup winning heroes. We are proud of you!
Die Zeit: Löw completes his work with the most important title since '54. When Joachim Löw joined the national team, German football was at its worst ever. With the title won in Rio, he rewarded himself and a generation of players for a long pursuit. He systematically led his team into the modern era. There was resistance to this at first, as well as to the beautiful, fair game Löw loves. He did not win a title for many years.
What they say
Joachim Löw: "It was our great strength to have continually improved through all those years. If anyone deserved this, it was this team. Today, there was only one deserved winner and that was this team. In recent days, they have developed an incredible team spirit and unbelievable willpower. This deep feeling of joy will stay for all eternity."
Philipp Lahm: "
It doesn't matter if we have the best players or whatever, it is of absolutely no interest – you have to have the best team. We have kept improving over the course of this tournament. We have not been put off by negative comments. We stayed our course. And in the end, there you are, a World Cup winner. An incredible feeling."
Manuel Neuer: "We have had an incredible team spirit even since the pre-tournament preparations, when we experienced a few setbacks and lost players like the Benders and Marco Reus, who also are World Cup winners. All of Germany is a World Cup winner. I don't know for how long we will celebrate, but from now on we will always wake up with a grin."
It appears the entire team including the coaching staff has come on with every major final tournament. While the side may have been more enthusiastic and thrilling in South Africa, they were also more naive. At the beginning of this World Cup, Löw sprang a surprise by introducing an unorthodox 4-3-3 system with four central defenders, swapping back to the more familiar 4-2-3-1 over the course of the tournament. Not every game was won in style, but back in Germany this was seen as a sign of maturity, since all recent World Cup winners have had to grind out the odd victory or two.
It may be a cliché, but the players and coach always praised the outstanding team spirit. The celebrations after the final, when even the players on the bench could hardly contain themselves, demonstrated that those were more than hollow words. That sense of collective endeavour was evident in the post-match interviews, the World Cup winners giving huge credit to all the squad – including those who missed the finals.
Room for improvement
With the impending retirement of Miroslav Klose, Germany need another 'old-style' central striker who can add depth to their attacks, and they have to improve their flexible attacking style to break down disciplined defences like Argentina's in future.
Central defender Benedikt Höwedes filled in as left-back in Brazil, but a player more natural suited to this position would add width to the German game. During Brazil 2014, Germany relied heavily on their right flank so adding another option on the left, who is able to overlap and go on surging runs, would enhance their attacking threat.
In Neuer (28), Schweinsteiger (29), Lahm (30) and Sami Khedira (27), the oldest key players are young enough to play at UEFA EURO 2016 in France. Some may even be around in Russia 2018, even though football is becoming more and more athletic and demanding.
The development centres in Germany seem to produce more and more great young players (though oddly full-backs and strikers are a rare commodity). In the future the 'second generation' around André Schürrle (23), Mario Götze (22), Toni Kroos (24), Marco Reus (25) and maybe Julian Draxler (20) will play an even more important role. Thomas Müller (24) will probably continue to find space for those goals with his inimitable runs.
In Group D with Scotland, Poland, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia and newcomers Gibraltar, the four-time World Cup winners are heavy favourites. However, they would have been even without bringing the World Cup home. It would be no surprise if they performed as commandingly as they did in qualifying for the World Cup, when they finished eight points ahead of Sweden.
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